Steelers should extend the olive branch and let Bell retire with team

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell / Charles LeClaire, USA TODAY Spor

News broke recently that Le’Veon Bell would like to retire with the Steelers, and maybe even get a shot at playing a preseason game for the team before hanging up his cleats. Bell was very open in his recent interview, admitting to some less-than-desirable pregame habits as well as saying his decision to leave the team was a mistake.

While I will admit that Bell had some primadonna issues that I was against, I also feel like he gets unfairly lumped in with Antonio Brown as a former Steelers player on the proverbial “no-fly list” for the team. Let’s be clear, Bell wasn’t as big of a problem as Brown was.

Steelers have little to be mad at with Bell

Bell was an electric runner for the Steelers. He benefited from a great offensive line that allowed him to wait for holes to open before using his power to charge through and make big plays. He was also an effective receiver and was easily a top-five back in the league for most of his tenure with the Steelers.

The issue came when his contract was expiring, and negotiations were stalling. The Steelers clearly wanted him back and offered him some competitive deals, but the issue seemed to come from the guaranteed money. The team as a whole didn’t give out guarantees like that to non-quarterbacks, and the history of running backs working out on a second deal isn’t great.

The team stood pat, tagging Bell twice as they worked to secure a long-term deal. Despite a generous offer, Bell opted to bet on himself and test free agency. His deal with the Jets was reportedly less than the Steelers offered, but it was his best deal and had the guarantees that he wanted.

Bell struggled behind a lackluster line and flamed out in New York. He bounced around a few years after that, but has been out of the league and is working on a boxing career. He has been adamant both in this interview and interviews before that he made a mistake leaving the Steelers.

Bell and Brown are two different stories

While you can hold some disdain for Bell, please don’t lump him in with Brown. Brown had already inked a big deal with the Steelers, and the team had even reworked the deal in order to keep him content. That wasn’t enough, as he forced his way out of Pittsburgh via trade, and the rest, as they say, was history.

While Brown has, at times, shown some semblance of regret for what he did, he was never as open about it as Bell has been. Brown has also been a constant figure in NFL headlines for all of the wrong reasons since being out of the league. Bell has still seen his name hit the headlines, but it hasn’t been for the same reasons.

Brown also had a fair contract when he forced his way out, as opposed to Bell, who believed he was worth more and took a risk in free agency. I have no qualms with a player doing that if they think they can get more from another team, I welcome them to do so. It ultimately didn’t work out for Bell.

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Bell has been adamant that he made a mistake, and I would have no issues with the Steelers allowing him to retire with the team. He was the best running back this team has seen since prime Willie Parker, and he has made amends with the franchise. I would be more than happy to see him get a chance to retire with the team this summer.